To get you going, here’s my top 10 list of best Rioja of 2011. See which ones ring your bell and learn to love the best of Rioja!
Photo courtesy Marcel Theisen via Flickr/CC
2001 La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva Especial
If it seems like I can’t stop talking about this wine, you’re right. It’s the best value of the year in my book and a wine I stocked my cellar with. For just around $30, it’s almost impossible to find more to love in a wine.
Light and elegant on the nose. Vanilla oak topped layers of leather, medicine, mint, chalk and teriyaki dried beef elements accent a bright core of wild cherry. Smooth and rich in the mouth, this is powerful yet not that large. The berry fruit, both fresh and dried, is accented by earth and spice notes. A fine bitter cherry element drives the moderately long finish. This is brilliant, layered, structured, faceted and transparent. It’s about as good as it gets. 94pts
2006 Ramon Bilbao Mirto $60
I first tasted this at the 2011 Tempranillo al Mundo blind tasting, and while I didn’t know it at the time, it was to go on to be the only Great Gold Medal Winner of the event. Unfortunately, my notes at Tempranillo al Mundo were collected by the judging official, but seeing as I only awarded a single gold medal, this wine most certainly is the wine that blew me away.
Explosively rich and powerful, yet remaining graceful and elegant, it’s a style of Rioja I really love. Judging from the other wines from Ramon Bilbao that I had previously tasted, it is a style that this house has mastered. Not inexpensive. It is a wine that shows what powerful Rioja can achieve and should be very long lived.
2008 Dinastia Vivanco 4 Varietales $70
I loved this wine from the get go. It’s unabashedly modern and perhaps more Chateauneuf-like than Rioja-like in the ways each varietal expressed itself. It epitomizes the heights that modern Rioja can achieve.
This is simply an explosively fruity, deep and rich wine, though it remains remarkably well defined. In the mouth, one finds powerfully rich yet fresh blackberry fruits paired with some assertive and New World-styled, oak induced flavors. The fruit powers through on the finish, which shows intense floral, leather and black spice elements that really make the fruit pop. This is a bold wine, leaning slightly more towards a New World style, yet it does so with some finesse and elegance. Great wine. 93pts
Lopez de Heredia Bosconia Reserva $40
No one does traditional Rioja like Lopez de Heredia, and while bottle variation always seems an issue here, the wines are so wonderfully pure, expressive and complex that it’s worth trying them and then trying them again. I usually prefer the Tondonia bottling in most vintages, but in 2001, the Bosconia was my pick.
Earthy and funky at first with eggshell and soil notes, this blossoms slowly with raspberry and wild strawberry tones accented with dried citron peel. Light and fresh in the mouth, this shows some nutty oak up front before laying down a pure, crisp mid-palate replete with crystal clear raspberry fruit. This is high acid without being acidic and displays rare elegance and finesse with its soft and rich yet bright mouthfeel. 93pts
2001 Marques de Murrieta Ygay Gran Reserva $50
If you’re looking for more power and depth in a Rioja that has a proven track record for ageing effortlessly for decades, look no further than the Ygay, a rare wine produced only in the best vintages. The 2001 seems a bit soft to my palate, but is still packed with youthful exuberance even at age 10!
Sweet and intensely fruity on the nose, the jammy full red fruit recalls gummy bears! There’s integrate oak spice here that lends a rather cinnamon tone to the nose, but ultimately reveals a very deep and complex array of aromatics. A touch soft in the mouth, this exhibits lovely richness. Shows a touch of dried plummy richness and remains a bit chunky and chewy through the modest finish. This is a wine of power and should improve with additional cellaring. 92pts